Dr Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and The Border, quizzed the Secretary of State Thérèse Coffey on a range of pressing issues such as Government’s support for farmers, the Avian Influenza outbreak currently ravaging the country and environmental protection.
The Cumbrian MP did this as part of the cross-party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee which scrutinises policy, expenditure and administration before making recommendations to Government.
There were many themes raised in the in-depth session. These ranged from hugely inflated farming costs and how well-equipped the country is able to deal with animal disease outbreaks to the unacceptable sewage being discharged into our rivers and lakes by water companies and the UK’s environment targets.
Dr Hudson, as the only vet in the House of Commons, raised concerns about the Avian Influenza outbreak which has seen egg prices rise and turkeys be culled ahead of Christmas and the country’s wider animal disease infrastructure which needs over £1 billion to bring it up to scratch according to a new report. The Secretary of State gave Dr Hudson her assurances that DEFRA will be pushing the treasury for this money and told him she was due to take a “deep dive” into the situation this week.
This session was hugely significant as it gave expert politicians, such as Dr Hudson, the chance to raise their concerns from evidence they gather on a weekly basis with a top cabinet official.
Dr Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and The Border, said:
“My thanks go out to the Secretary of State for appearing before us and answering our questions. There are unfortunately a great deal of issues that her Department must address at this time – from unacceptable sewage discharges by water companies to the Avian Influenza outbreak that is devastating communities across the UK – so it was rewarding to hear from the heart of Government about all being done to tackle the problems.
“It’s vital that Government is scrutinised in order to make sure policy is working for people on the ground. As such, I put questions raised to me from local farmers at my industry roundtable last week to her, to make sure their voices are heard at the highest level of government.
“Ultimately the role DEFRA plays is pivotal to all aspects of our society. It oversees the food we eat, the land we live on and even the air we breathe. Therefore, we must make sure it is adequately tooled to do its job and well informed about the issues it needs to address. I look forward to working closely with the Secretary of State as we move forward.”
Thérèse Coffey, who has overall responsibility for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, was appointed at the end of October and this was her first time before the Select Committee as Secretary of State.